Introduction

The concept of criticism is an old expression and it is driven from the Greek where it means to judge. In English, it is a synonym with judgment. Criticism is the art of judging qualities and values. Architecture is a multi-disciplinary subject, and architectural criticism is a comprehensive domain that can be applied to cover one or more than one level of concepts, processes, and products. Criticism is closely linked to practice, theory, and philosophy in architecture. It makes a person more aware of the qualitative aspects of buildings, and the built environment around us. It links us well with design, taste, cultural communities, values, and finally communicates ideas. (Al-bqour, 2019)

In the words of Paul Goldberger: “Architecture criticism is aesthetics and it is politics and it is sociology and it is culture…” 

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©Architecture Criticism: Dead or Alive? Blair Kamin

Need for Criticism in Architecture

Architecture criticism acts as a driving force in guiding modern architectural thought. Critics, through constructive criticism, prove to be an asset in order to improve the architecture being produced. As Wayne Attoe in his book “Architecture and critical imagination” suggested, “criticism can only be useful when it traces the future, instead of humiliating the past (Attoe 2005)”.

Similarly, Apurva Bose Dutta in an interview emphasizes the need for thoughtful critics since architectural journalists are the “narrators of the buildings”. They elaborate the hidden meanings behind these walls, and explain them to a common person, to help them admire the beauty they are surrounded with. Since architecture goes beyond aesthetics and ethics, it is more than social and political agendas, thus criticism adds clarity and depth of vision to the understanding of the architecture. According to Thomas Fisher, architecture is both “psychological and behavioral science” it draws the attention of the user and manipulates them, he added that “architectural aesthetic depends upon traditional issues, that function on the nature of work, the possibility of classes, kinds, and types in the domain, the character of representation and expression, and the warranted strong foundations of criticism” (Fisher, 2015).

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Photo illustration by Jeff Meddaugh/Staff Designer_©The Dallas Morning News

Effects of the Shift in Media on Architecture Criticism: 

The role of the architectural critic stands out to deal with the negative phenomena, analyze, assess, and promote the positive aspects of architecture (Shikoh, 2005). It’s about covering the news and presenting the facts to the general public, with as much impartiality as possible. With the transitioning modes of communications, architectural criticism and journalism are also undergoing a transformative period. With the availability of social media and other platforms, print media has drastically taken a shift to digital media, which has made journalism more interactive. While on the brighter side the critics and journalists can post online to engage the general public and link them together for better functioning and maintaining a democratic environment. The participation of the citizens in the public affair is important to maintain the democracy and smooth functioning of the society. It is only possible if they are provided with authentic information and a platform to express their concerns. but unfortunately due to a sudden shift to digital media people are unable to receive authentic information, according to Blair Kamin who declared social media as a destructive platform. He argues that has made it easier for people to interfere, in a way that everyone becomes a critic and all of the sudden dynamics change and the smallest of things becomes the talk of the town (Kamin, 2015). 

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What Happens to Architectural Criticism When Dailies Shrivel and Bloggers Take Over?_©Paul Petrunia/Archinect

Eva Hagberg in criticism in crisis, put forth her insights on the state of architecture criticism today, she considered it to have become obsolete, and claims that criticism today does not require any experience or association, It has lost itself to mainstream vague pieces on aesthetics. Since the change in the dynamics and increase in internet culture, the ultimate goal has changed from criticism to merely producing articles or creating content (Hagberg, 2018).

Giving way to the new form of Architecture

Mathew Johnson, claims that we have escaped the blatant doctrines of the past, and it has only been possible due to new techniques, that contemporary architecture had renewed our attention to the challenges of the environment and social action, he believes that we are more interested than ever in tectonics and how to build with quality. “The effects are sensory, artistic, representational, and functional rather than only social and political.” He argued that it is not architecture that needs rebuilding rather it is the critics who need to be more thoughtful in examining contemporary architecture (Johnson, 2015).

With the increase in these social platforms, the general public is becoming subtler toward architecture and is being more and more aware of the environment they want to be a part of. They are becoming more sensitive towards the built forms and the importance of architecture, in not only making the cities more interactive but also in the production of the built environment, that can result in the betterment of the societies. 

Although, we live in a system where quality architecture has always been under shadowed, while showy, formal, and trite designs have always been promoted. It often has failed to privilege the architecture of substance over the wrong modernist architect. But with the advancement in technology, the shift in media, and involvement of the public if thoughtfully and carefully scrutinized, can help in producing architecture that is not only futuristic but can also bring reliability in shaping the environment. 

According to Salingaros better, architecture can be built if societies are provided with a platform that can voice their needs and critics to convey those needs to architects, he claims that there is one thing about architecture, people who live in them do a good job of making them feel like them home despite all the design and architectural obstacles that may confront them (Salingaros,​ 2015).

Isamu Noguchi, Red Cube, New York_©places journal

The role of architecture criticism in defining the future of architecture is crucial, it helps in the production of well-received societies that function well in the ecosystem and can help in solving the environmental as well as psychological issues being faced by the society. 

References:

  1. Al-bqour, N. (2019). Theories and Criticism in Architecture – Criticism in Architecture. [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337771765_Theories_and_Criticism_in_Architecture_-_Criticism_in_Architecture.
  2. Attoe, W. (2005). architecture and critical thinking.
  3. Fisher, S. (2015). Philosophy of Architecture. [online] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/architecture/ [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].
  4. Shikoh, M. (2005). Architectural Publishing in pakistan. In: Architecture criticism and journalism: a global perspective.
  5. Kamin, B. (2015). Architecture Criticism: Dead or Alive? [online] Nieman Reports. Available at: https://niemanreports.org/articles/architecture-criticism-dead-or-alive/ [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].
  6. Hagberg, E. (2018). Criticism in Crisis. [online] Architectmagazine.com. Available at: https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/criticism-in-crisis_o [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].
  7. Johnson, M. (2020). Architecture Doesn’t Need Rebuilding, It Needs More Thoughtful Critics. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/586834/architecture-doesn-t-need-rebuilding-it-needs-more-thoughtful-critics#:~:text=Architecture%20Doesn [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].
  8. Salingaros​, N. ​ (2015). The 21st Century Needs Its Own Paradigm Shift in Architecture. [online] Metropolis. Available at: https://metropolismag.com/projects/the-21st-century-needs-its-own-paradigm-shift-in-architecture/.
Author

Romaisa Tahir ( a student of architecture at the Institute for arts and culture, from Pakistan) enjoys writing and expresses her concerns via poetry and narrative writing. She believes that the passion for writing and admiration for the art of building can be blended; allowing the silence of buildings to speak through words and add meaning to their existence.

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